Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Autumn 1993

Volume 20 Issue 1
    • 1Paul Veyne
    • Foucault was as strongly attracted to Greco-Roman antiquity, in the end, as was Nietzsche, his intellectual master. Admiration entails an element of candor and a dissymmetry that intellectuals, a resentful lot, ordinarily find repugnant; thus I was surprised one day to see Foucault get up from his worktable and ask me naively: “Don't you find certain masterpieces overwhelmingly superior to others? For me, the appearance of Oedipus, blind, at the end of Sophocles' play . . .” We had never spoken of Oedipus Rex—we did not talk much about literature—and Foucault's rhetorical question expressed a sudden emotion that did not require a response. Similarly, when we took turns extolling the work of René Char, we discreetly limited ourselves to a couple of sentences. But when he had to delve into ancient literature to write his last two books, Foucault did so with palpable pleasure, which he succeeded in prolonging, and I can still hear him say, in the obligatory laconic manner, that Seneca's letters were superb. And indeed there is an affinity between Foucault's elegance as an individual and the elegance that characterized Greco-Roman civilization. In short, classical elegance privately served as Foucault's image of an art of living, a possible ethics. During his last years, while he was working on the Stoics, he thought of a great deal about suicide (“but I'm not going to talk about it; if I kill myself, it will be obvious enough”); his death was more or less tantamount to suicide, as we shall see. However, Foucault constructed for himself such a singular conception of morality that there is a real problem: within his philosophy, was an ethics for Foucault even possible?

      See also: Michel Foucault, Parrēsia

      Paul Veyne holds the chair of the history of Rome at the Collège de France. He is an editor of and contributor to volume 1 of A History of Private Life (1987) and author, among many works, of Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? (1988) and René Char en ses poèmes (1990). Catherine Porter, professor of international communications and culture at State University of New York, Cortland, has translated numerous authors, including Luce Irigaray, Tzvetan Todorov, and Shoshana Felman. Her most recent translation is of Bruno Latour's Aramis (forthcoming). Arnold I. Davidson is professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and executive editor of Critical Inquiry. He has just completed the introduction to Pierre Hadot's Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision (forthcoming).

    • 10Carlo Ginzburg
    • 1. I believe that I heard of microhistory for the first time from Giovanni Levi in 1977 or 1978, and I adopted this previously unheard-of word without asking what it meant literally; I suppose I contented myself with the reference to a reduced scale suggested by the prefix micro. I well remember, too, that in those early conversations we spoke of microhistory as if it were a label attached to an empty container waiting to be filled.1

      Some time later Levi, Simona Cerutti, and I began working on a series entitled precisely Microstorie published by Casa Editrice Einaudi in Turin. Twenty-odd volumes by both Italian and foreign authors have appeared; a few of the Italian works have been translated into other languages. In some quarters there has been talk of an Italian school of microhistory. Recently, thanks to a small retrospective investigation into terminology, I discovered that this word, which we thought was free of connotation, had already been used by others.2

      ·  1. Levi remembers the first discussions about the series that he had with Giulio Einaudi and me to have been 1974, 1975, or 1976, but this is a lapse in memory. See “Il piccolo, il grande, il piccolo: Intervista a Giovanni Levi,” Meridiana (Sept. 1990): 229.

      ·  2. Made possible by ORION, the program on which the UCLA library computerized catalogue is based.

      See also: Carlo Ginzburg, Checking the Evidence: The Judge and the Historian  ·  Carlo Ginzburg, Family Resemblances and Family Trees: Two Cognitive Metaphors

      Carlo Ginzburg is Franklin D. Murphy Professor of Italian Renaissance Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Cheese and the Worms (1980), The Night Battles (1983), The Enigma of Piero della Francesca (1985), Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (1989), and Ecstasies (1991). His previous contribution to Critical Inquiry was “Checking the Evidence: The Judge and the Historian” (Autumn 1991). John and Anne C. Tedeschi have translated Clues, Myths and the Historical Method, Night Battles, and The Cheese and the Worms.

    • 36John Rawls
    • A further aim of this essay is to set out the bearing of political liberalism once a liberal political conception of justice is extended to the law of peoples. In particular, we ask: What form does the toleration of nonliberal societies take in this case? Surely tyrannical and dictatorial regimes cannot be accepted as members in good standing in a reasonable society of peoples. But equally not all regimes can be reasonably required to be liberal; otherwise, the law of peoples itself would not express liberalism's own principle of toleration for other reasonable ways of ordering society nor further its attempt to find a shared basis of agreement among reasonable peoples. Just as a citizen in a liberal society is to respect other persons' comprehensive religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines, provided they are pursued in accordance with a reasonable political conception of justice, so a liberal society is to respect other societies organized by comprehensive doctrines, provided their political and social institutions meet certain conditions that lead the society to adhere to a reasonable law of peoples.

      See also: Kwame Anthony Appiah, Liberalism, Individuality, and Identity

      John Rawls is James Bryant Conant University Professor (emeritus) in the department of philosophy at Harvard University. He is the author of A Theory of Justice (1971) and Political Liberalism (1993).

    • 69Hal Foster
    • Fanon is not objectified in any simple sense; “in the eyes of the white man” he is deprived of this “ontological resistance,” too. He cannot resist, Fanon suggests, because he does not cohere: “in the white world the man of color encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema.” The echo of Jacques Lacan is intended: in the mirror of the white man the formation of the I of the black man is somehow impaired. This is so, according to Fanon, because “below” his corporeal schema is projected a “historico-racial schema” that interferes with it: “a thousand details, anecdotes, stories” that allow him to exist only as an amputated “epidermal” thing. “My body was given back to me sprawled out, distorted, recolored, clad in mourning in that white winter day” (B, pp. 110, 111-13). This violated subject is left to pick up the pieces, and Fanon takes it as his psychopolitical task to make them over into a different “schema” altogether.

      See also: Sander L. Gilman, Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature

      Hal Foster is associate professor of art history and comparative literature at Cornell University. He is an editor of October and the author of Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (1985) and Compulsive Beauty (1993).

    • 103Marc Shell
    • The familiar rhetoric of inevitable linguistic union ranges from humorous to the imperialistically oppressive. (“Melting pot, yes. Tower of Babel, no!” is the saying.)1 And it still informs manifestly most studies of the politics of language in America and histories of the anglicization of America.2 That rhetoric serves, as we shall see, to obscure or explain away the facts that the revolutionary colonies were markedly polyglot,3 that neither the Constitution of the United States nor other such official documents name an official language,4 and that there is a crucial dialogue, nowadays generally submerged but nevertheless ready to surface, about whether the United States should have an official language—or several official languages—and, if so, which one.

      What, besides the predilection to confuse America with the world before Babel, impels Americans to take the fiction of original American monoglottism for the reality of American polyglottism? What is the link between the impressive bilingualism of America's former population and its current population's high rate of illiteracy in even one language?

      ·  1. Saul Bellow is perhaps wrongly reported to have said this about the goals of U.S. English, a group bent on making English the one and only official language of the U.S. Bellow has said that he is not a member of U.S. English (quoted in S. I. Hayakawa, One Nation—Indivisible? The English Language Amendment, excerpted as “The Case for Official English,” in Language Loyalties: A Source Book on the Official Language Controversy, ed. James Crawford [Chicago, 1992], p. 100). Compare Arthur M. Schlesinger's complaint: “The national ideal had once been e pluribus unum. Are we now to belittle unum and glorify pluribus? Will the center hold? Or will the melting pot yield to the Tower of Babel?” (quoted in Werner, “E Pluribus Unum; or, Matthew Arnold Meets George Orwell in the Multiculturalism Debate,” Working Paper, no. 53, for the John F. Kennedy-Institut für Nordamerikastudien at Freie Universität Berlin [1992]: 22).

      ·  2. The telling silence about official language in America characterizes analyses from the left and right sides of the political spectrum. Both sides assume the hegemony of English as a fact of life and define the politics of language in the United States mainly in terms of the characteristics of a specifically American English. Among such analysts are Michael P. Kramer, Imagining Language in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (Princeton, N.J., 1992), and David Simpson, The Politics of American English 1776-1850 (New York, 1986); they fail to consider fully the significance of America's polyglot past and its unofficially official monoglottal present.

      ·  3. See Shirley Brice Heath, “English in our Language Heritage,” in Language in the USA, ed. Charles A. Ferguson and Heath (Cambridge, 1981), pp. 6-20.

      ·  4. However, it is worth recalling the following extenuating factors: (1) Various treaties with the Indians and the Spanish seem to have meant to guarantee some sort of official language parity with English; (2) the Constitution was translated into other languages; (3) as discussed below (section 7), in our century there have been movements to make English the one official language. For translation of the Constitution into French, see Benjamin Franklin, letter to Robert R. Livingston, 22 July 1783, Franklin: Writings, ed. J. A. Leo Lemay (New York, 1987), p. 1071.

      See also: Marc Shell, Marranos (Pigs), or from Coexistence to Toleration

      Marc Shell, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow for 1990-95, is professor of comparative literature and professor of English and American literature at Harvard University. His books include The Economy of Literature (1978), Money, Language, and Thought (1982), The End of Kinship (1988), Elizabeth's Glass (1993), Children of the Earth (1993), and Art and Money (forthcoming in 1994).

    • 128Tracy B. Strong
    • It is ironic that the most famous portion of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan is not writing, but a picture, the frontispiece engraving. It was almost certainly executed by the Parisian engraver, Abraham Bosse, who, with Hobbes's help, revised a drawing by the well-known Czech emigré Wenceslaus Hollar, also a friend of Hobbes. The engraved version depicts the Leviathan as a great giant, towering over a well-organized landscape. The giant's body, but not his head, is made up of distinguishable individuals, all turned away from the viewer and toward the body politic. In the foreground of the landscape is a walled city containing as its central public building a large cathedral sitting atop a hill. The streets are rectilinear. In the valleys surrounding the city are a number of other, smaller towns, not apparently walled, each also containing a church. A single and solitary house sits on a hill to the left of the major town, almost at its height. Underneath the landscape portion of the picture are two hierarchies of panels, ten in total: on the left, the emblems and practices of civil society, all centered around the use of force; on the right, the parallel signs for a church. The two sets of panels are linked by a curtain on which is written the title, author, and publisher of the book that links them. Over everything, above even the crown of the figure of the Leviathan, is a citation from Scripture, in Latin, “There is no power over earth that compares to him.” When there is, I might say, no difference between the word and the power, then we will have, as the verse from Job concludes, “a creature without fear . . . king over all the sons of pride” (Job 41:33-34).

      See also: Horst Bredekamp, From Walter Benjamin to Carl Schmitt, via Thomas Hobbes

      Tracy B. Strong is professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, and is editor of Political Theory. His most recent book is The Idea of Political Theory: Reflections on the Self in Political Time and Space (1990). His Rousseau and the Politics of the Ordinary is currently in press.

    • 179Peter Hulme
    • The temptation, when faced with a paraphrase of one's argument, even in a critique as sympathetic and complimentary as Myra Jehlen's (“History before the Fact; or, Captain John Smith's Unfinished Symphony,” Critical Inquiry 19 [Summer 1993]: 667-92), is to complain about misrepresentation and to indulge in a lengthy and point-by-point rebuttal. The higher road would consist of an engagement with the larger issues raised by her paper, bypassing the details of the original reading. Wanting, inevitably, to have it both ways, I will comment and in places rebut, while trying to keep my eyes on the broader horizons she so ably scanned. And if I do seem to protest too much, then I would point out that questions of reading and paraphrase are precisely at the heart of this matter.

      The epigraph to the introduction in Colonial Encounters quotes the Bishop of Avila telling the Queen of Castile in 1492 that “language is the perfect instrument of empire.”1 Myra Jehlen suggests that this dictum could be considered “the current generation's set piece” (p. 679). No doubt epigraphs are hostages to fortune, and we use them at our peril. I used the story about Nebrija's grammar as suggestive of the importance of language to matters of empire, an affirmation, if you like, of the significance of the cultural and ideological registers to a realm often considered in terms predominantly economic and political. I would certainly agree with Myra Jehlen's concern about the dangers of critical readings becoming 'either utterly impossible—because texts are [seen as] utterly unreliable—or entirely certain, because texts are also [seen as] entirely accessible” (p. 680). However, although the Bishop of Avila may have thought that language is instrumental, I do not; and I certainly don't offer any such “proposition” or treat the dictum “as a truth to be elaborated” or “project a vision of the Bishop” (p. 681). Indeed, although any reader of her essay might not get this impression, Colonial Encounters has nothing at all to say about the Bishop of Avila's reported statement to Queen Isabella, nor about Antonio de Nebrija's famous grammar. Myra Jehlen uses the sentence as a way of unlocking the argument of Colonial Encounters when it is not even discussed in the course of the book, let alone underwritten.

      · 1. Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters; Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797 (London, 1986), p. 1; hereafter abbreviated CE.

      Peter Hulme is professor of literature at the University of Essex and author of Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797 (1986; rpt. 1992).

    • 187Myra Jehlen
    • This business of reading, as Peter Hulme observes in his response, is not as easy as it looks. Harder still is paraphrasing what one has read; especially, by a perverse paradox, when one agrees with it almost completely. Expressing a marginal disagreement is the most delicate job of representation there is. I am grateful to Peter Hulme for his generous transcendence of the natural impulse to deplore all my misrepresentations, as he takes them to be, and I would like to begin by conceding one possible wrong impression. I should not have implied that the Bishop of Avila's dictum is actually discussed, much less explicitly endorsed in Colonial Encounters; it appears only as an epigraph, a wonderful one. Calling it “the current generations's set piece,” I was admiring its exceptional current resonance. I did, however, also understand it to express a view with which Peter Hulme was in accord, albeit ironically. In order not to repeat that sort of mistake in this rejoinder, I shall stick even closer to the text.

      I take up “Making No Bones,” therefore, at the point at which he offers a summary of his position as being the following: “Cannibalism does exist. It exists as a term within colonial discourse to describe the ferocious devouring of human flesh practiced by some savages” (p. 183). This is indeed what I understand him to be saying in the book, and I can, in return, sum up my argument with Colonial Encounters as an objection to treating cannibalism only as a term; more broadly, to treating any term as a self-sufficient text. For cannibalism purports to refer to an activity, the activity of anthropophagy that it interprets as “the ferocious devouring of human flesh practiced by some savages.” Peter Hulme focusses on the interpretation and brackets the activity, about whose existence he wishes to remain agnostic. But treating an interpretation independently of its object seems to me a dubious enterprise. Establishing a relation is the essence of interpretation, no less when a myth, like that of cannibalism, takes on, as we say, a life of its own. For this life is generated by a dialectic between reality and representation—a particular reality and a particular representation whose interaction would be different if they were different. In short, to analyze the career of the “term” cannibalism I am arguing that one has to refer as well to the material possibility of “anthropophagy.”

      Myra Jehlen is Board of Governors Professor of Literature in the English Department at Rutgers University. Her publications include American Incarnation: The Individual, the Nation, and the Continent (1986) and the forthcoming Literature of Colonization (1993), part of the Cambridge Literary History of the United States series.